Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Stillwell Avenue Bridge, Brooklyn, Coney Island Creek

Stillwell Avenue Bridge, Brooklyn, Coney Island Creek, March 31, 2010
Keith Nelson, Harry Petersen, Rob hickman, Kyle Petersen

Floods across the Northeast and continuous rain pouring the night before did not stop this week's ride. Like clockwork, the rain started letting up in the early morning.  By 9am the sky remained cloudy, but precipitation had stopped.  Calls were made to the scheduled riders and the meeting sight was set.

What better place for the Coney Island chapter of the Unicycle Tour to begin but the Coney Island Side Show.  The riders included Rob, Keith, Kyle, and Harry.  Harry is Kyle's younger brother on a one week leave from the Navy.  Although Harry had not been on one wheel for a few years, he was able to jump on and ride into the morning sun.  

Also meeting us at the Sideshow was NY Post writer Jeremy Olshan and daring photographer Greg Mango. The pre-ride discussion covered many of the issues that the NY Post regularly delves into such as politics, religion, city living, economics, and sports. The most striking thing we learned was that Tiger Woods had been featured on the Post's cover for 21 consecutive days. This record beat by a full week the Post's 9-11 front page coverage.

We took a quick photo in front of the banner line then headed to the Boardwalk for a few more shots before pedaling off to the bridges. Major construnction on the Boardwalk forced temporary closures, so we rode in circles waiting for cranes to quit moving and gates to open.

For Kyle, it was a ride in the shadows of his employer.  During the baseball season Kyle is a featured performer at Keystone Park, home of the Cyclones. Kyle showed us a fenced in abandoned lot where many home run balls lay rotting in the sand and mud.

The ride from the boardwalk to the Cropsey Ave Bridge was short and easy.  It was at the bridge that we learned about photographer Harry's daring prowess. He was willing to face the gaping jaws of death in order to get the perfect shot.  He climbed bridges, ran into traffic, and did whatever was necessary to complete his mission.  Following his brave climb onto the edge of the bridge, we took note of a spiraling island of filth and debris that formed in the eddy currents of Coney Island creek.

We split up with Jeremy and Greg and make the short trek over to the Stillwell Avenue Bridge, where we were rejoined. The Stillwell Avenue bridge is less picturesque than the Cropsey, but we found an old corrugated billboard to use as a backdrop for our group photo.
Immediately after bidding farewell to the NY Post, Rob's tire began to loose air. Is it any surprise that the first flat to impede the tour would happen on the fabled streets of Coney Island? We swung by a few auto body shops but no one offered air or assistance. Rob headed out on foot for a bike shop. He was then recommended by a flat fix guy to buy a kit from a grocery store deli. Using the traditional inspection technique of running the finger along the inside of the tire, the small sliver of metal that had worked its way into Rob's tire sliced into his thumb. It was the tour's second injury. The conversation between the flat fix guy and his conversing companion provided a constant barrage of complaints, curses, and racist comments. As he burst into yet another anti-immigrant tirade we rode off.  

Back on the Boardwalk, we came to the obvious conclusion of a perfect photo: unicylces and the Wonder Wheel.  As Rob got taken away with an art shot, the others descended the ramp into the arcade. The riders marveled at Harry's strength as he challenged every mechanical game of strength, from arm wrestling to bull horn bending.  Minutes passed with no sign of Rob. We didn't see him again until Brighton Beach

In Rob's absence, Kyle, Keith and Harry came upon with Jenn Gapay, Miss Cyclone (Angie Pontanie), and a crew from the NY Times. In front of the Cyclone we posed for pictures and congratulated everyone on the start of another season at Coney Island. We bid Jen, Angie, and others farewell and headed to the boardwalk to ride the automobile free route to Brighton Beach and find our fourth rider.

Nearing the end of our ride, we went to Skovorodka Cafe for vodka, beer, herring, potatoes, onions, and bread.  Brighton Beach's atmoshpere makes an afternoon of unicycle, Russian Beer, and shots of vodka make sense. The beer of choice was a Saint-Petersburg brew known as Baltika.  As it turns out, both Rob and Keith have spent time traveling and working in Russia, so the Baltika brand was familiar. Starting at Balitaka #7 we consumed their stock, learned about #9 (a REAL man's beer), and were served #5.  Next round, the waiter left the cafe, and returned with #9. 

Consuming a bakers dozen of Baltika and numerous shots of vodka, the sh**faced foursome left the cafe and with declining balancing abilities, pedaling their way back to the boardwalk. Within minutes of mounting their one wheels, each rider met pavement in a different comical pose.  With weaving wheels, the tour zig-zagged its way back down the boardwalk in a triumphant parade: 49 Bridges crossed. Next week we hit the half a century crossing.

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